Beginners Guide to Olympic Cross Country Skiing

02 December 2013 / 08:30

Cross-country skiing was one of the original sports at the very first Olympic Winter Games at Chamonix 1924 although a women’s event did not appear until Oslo 1952.

The sport is part of the Nordic Skiing family which also includes biathlon, ski-jumping and Nordic combined.

Possibly the purest of the four, cross-country is, put simply, a running race held on skis in which competitors propel themselves across the snow using poles and skis.

Due to the fact that every major muscle group is used, it is one of the most difficult endurance sports in the world and requires supreme fitness.

Since Chamonix 1924 the sport has been dominated by Norway who have claimed almost 100 medals. Neighbours Sweden are next on the all-time medal table.

Great Britain are yet to win a medal in any event at an Olympic Winter Games but did have three competitors at Vancouver 2010 – Andrew Musgrave, Andrew Young and Fiona Hughes.

Fiona Hughes Team GB Vancouver 2010

That marked the first time that British representatives had competed in the sport at a Games since Lillehammer 1994 when Dave Belam was the sole GB athlete to enter.

Both men and women will compete in six different events at Sochi 2014 meaning there will be 12 gold medals on offer.

The events vary in distance from a sprint, roughly a kilometre, to 50km – 30km for the women – and also in discipline with mass-start events and also staggered pursuits.

On top of that there are two different types of cross-country skiing – freestyle and classical.

Freestyle skiing – also called skate skiing – means you generate speed on your skis by using the same motion as you would on roller blades or ice skates. This method is faster but it generally is more difficult to learn.

Classical skiing is essentially walking with a glide between steps. To generate speed, you kick your front foot backwards and propel your other foot forward. This method is slower .

At Sochi 2014 men will compete in a 15km classical, a 30km pursuit – which involves both freestyle and classical, a 50km freestyle, an individual and team sprint and a 4x10km relay.

The women compete in a 10km classical, a 15km pursuit, a 30km freestyle, an individual and team sprint and a 4x5km relay.

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